By Teri Walker –
Four of the 145 films featured in this year’s Sedona International Film Festival have ties to Holbrook and Winslow.
by Jeremy Naranjo
Holbrook native Jeremy Naranjo’s film, Symmetry, will be screened twice during the festival that begins on Saturday, Feb. 18, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 26. Naranjo wrote, directed and produced the short student film, which was filmed in various northern Arizona locations.
Symmetry is described by festival organizers as “an edge-of-your-seat thriller…the story of an inexperienced homicide detective whose first case is a vigilante who kills drug smugglers in a cat-and-mouse game that turns deadly when the detective ends up on the hit list.”
Naranjo, 31, is a graduate of Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Film Making in Sedona. He is originally from Holbrook, and is the son of Nancy Barela and Chris Serna.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Southeastern Oklahoma State Univer-sity. He became interested in filmmaking his junior year in college and found himself writing screenplays that were adaptations of his favorite books. On a visit to Holbrook over Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, he be-gan researching film schools and settled on the Zaki Gordon school, where he earned a certificate in digital filmmaking last year.
Naranjo was in charge of almost every element of directing and producing his feature film, from writing the script to casting, to scouting locations, managing shooting schedules, directing performances, juggling the budget and much more.
“It’s incredibly overwhelming,” Naranjo said of taking on the trifecta of writing, directing and producing. “Even having been on sets and watching behind the scenes doesn’t prepare you for how involved you have to be.”
He did hire a photography crew to film the movie, and had a staff including editors, a stunt coordinator, a sound team, a set designer and a technical advisor.
Naranjo’s film will screen at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, and at 3:20 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23.
Naranjo is assistant director of two other short films being featured in the festival, entitled I Want To Be Tom Savini and Christel Clear.
The budding filmmaker isn’t sure what his next career step will be now that his first film made was accepted into a respected international festival, but he is certain he wants to keep making films.
“It’s definitely what I want to do. I’m trying to decide what the next logical step is for me …staying within the independent film industry or heading to L.A. to slave away on sets,” said Naranjo.
As far as the Sedona Film Festival goes, Naranjo said, “For my first time being in a festival, to be in one as large as Sedona is quite an honor; and to have three projects in at one time is extremely encouraging.”
Naranjo, who lives in Flagstaff, speaks fondly of his support system in Holbrook.
“My mother did a little fundraiser–a Navajo taco sale that raised about $500. All of my friends and family pitched in and were an incredible help,” said Naranjo. “I’m so grateful for their support.”
Naranjo has dubbed his production company Refrigerator Door Productions, and explains, “Anything any of us does artistically, whether we’re putting out films or painting or whatever, there’s always a part of us that’s really just drawing pictures and hoping they get hung up on the refrigerator door.”
Behind the Studio Door
It isn’t often that artists let anyone into the studio while they’re creating, and it’s certainly not a practice that Winslow artist Tina Mion had allowed before. But after 10 years of asking, cajoling, entreating and earning trust, director and filmmaker David Herzberg finally convinced Mion to let him film her at work and the short film Tina Mion–Behind the Studio Door is the outcome.
Mion is the artist in residence at the fabled La Posada Hotel in Winslow. She and her husband Allan Affeldt bought the hotel, which had closed in 1957, in 1997 and began renovating it bit by bit, eventually turning it into a major northern Arizona destination.
Mion, who works primarily in oils and pastels, set up a studio at La Posada as soon as she and her husband took up residence, and has moved her studio from one place to another, all over the hotel, as renovations pro-gressed and kicked her out of each space.
Mion now has a permanent studio in the hotel and good naturedly proclaims she won’t be moved from it, even as the finishing touches are put on the hotel.
Mion won’t reveal where the studio is secreted away in La Posada, which has been dubbed the last great Fred Harvey hotel and architect Mary Colter’s masterpiece.
“But, if you notice music coming from somewhere you wouldn’t expect,” she chuckles, “you might be get-ting close.”
Herzberg stumbled onto La Posada in 1999 when he spied the impressive structure after heading the wrong way while driving through Winslow and making a u-turn to get his bearings.
He walked into the hotel, which had only six rooms open at the time, met Mion and her husband, and fell in love with the place.
Since that time, Herzberg, who makes documentary short films, has filmed several short pieces at the hotel, but it’s his 24-minute piece about Mion that he chose to enter in the Sedona festival and, to his great pleasure, it was selected to be screened twice during the event.
“Tina’s just fascinating. She’s an amazing artist whose pieces range from very light and whimsical to dark and disturbing,” said Herzberg.
Mion’s evocative artwork hangs throughout La Posada. Her collection is so expansive she regularly changes out the artwork, resulting in each visit to the hotel presenting a new visual experience for guests.
There is no narrative or script for the film; the movie is primarily shots of Mion working, and her work, with some commentary by the artist.
Mion doesn’t explain her art or her process in the film.
“She didn’t really want to talk about her work. I think she wants people to interpret the art for themselves,” said Herzberg. “The whole movie is in her voice.”
The key to getting the intensely private and self-described shy artist through the pressure of being filmed?
“I really think it was the barbecues,” laughs Herzberg.
Herzberg said filming was a little taxing at times for Mion, who wasn’t used to having anyone watch her in action, let alone for hours on end. At least once or twice a week, after long days of filming, Herzberg would fire up the grill and he, Mion and her husband would relax outside and regroup before the next day of shooting.
Mion agrees that for some reason, those charcoal-fueled meals got her through. “He’s very, very smart and very wily. He showed up with this old barbecue grill and he’d fire it up. The sun would be setting, and we’d just be hanging out and it was comfortable. That, I think, sealed the deal,” she said.
It was Herzberg’s easy manner and years of familiarity that allowed her to trust him to make this highly per-sonal piece.
“I’m just a really private person, and honestly, I’m just not sure why anyone would be that interested in see-ing me work,” she said.
Herzberg made the process easy for her.
“Sometimes, I wouldn’t even know he was there. He’d be there for a little while and then disappear,” said Mion. “I wouldn’t even know he had the camera running some of the time. He just made it easy for me to relax and work.”
Mion says she is pleased with the resulting film and extremely pleased for Herzberg that his work was se-lected to be in the Sedona festival.
The film will be shown at 12:20 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, and at 12 noon on Saturday, Feb. 25.
For more information about the film festival and ticket information, visit www.sedonafilmfestival.com.